I am reading Lawrence Durrell’s book “Spirit of Place”. And it has got me thinking. (: Durrell, like myself, lived in places in order to intuit his heartbeat and considered himself more of a foreign residence writer than a travel writer.
About capturing the essence of place, Durrell writes,
The great thing is to…travel with the eyes of the spirit wide open, and not too much factual information. To tune in, without reverence, idly — but with real inward attention…in so doing you can extract the essence of a place once you know how. If you just get as still as a needle, you’ll be there….
…travel becomes a sort of science of intuitions which is of the greatest importance to everyone — but most of all to the artist who is always looking for nourishing soils, in which to put down roots and retreat. Everyone finds his own ‘correspondences’ in this way — landscapes where you suddenly feel bounding with ideas, and others where half your soul falls asleep…Writers each seem to have a personal landscape of the heart which beckons them.
I love the way Durrell takes me there. Take this description about Egypt for example:
If you sit quite still in the landscape-diviner’s pose — why, the whole rhythm of ancient Egypt rises up from the damp cold sand. You can hear its very pulse tick. Nothing is strange to you at such moments — the old temples with their death-cults, the hieroglyphs, the long slow whirl of the brown Nile among the palm-fringed islets, the crocodiles and snakes. It is palpably just as it was when the High Priest of Ammon initiated Alexander into the mysteries. ….of course you cannot arrange to be initiated through a travel agency! You would have to reside and work your way in through the ancient crust – a tough one – of daily life. And how different is the rhythm of Egypt to that of Greece!
Just try for a moment sitting on the great stone omphalos, the navel of the ancient Greek world, at Delphi. Don’t ask mental qustions, but relax and empty your mind. It lies, this strange amphora-shaped object, in an overgrown field above the temple. Everything is blue and smells of sage. The marbles dazzle down below you. There are two eagles moving softly softly on the sky, like distant boats rowing across an immense violet lake.
Don’t you love this???? I am so there.
And finally, Durrell on Scotland,
…the poetry, and the poverty and naked joyous insouciance of mountain life…Clearly she is a queenly country and a wild mountainous mate for poets.
Why do you write about Place? For me it’s about cultivating recognition of our common web of humanity. For it is through sharing our stories that I believe peace is possible.
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Robin in Ubud, Bali
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